The Brandon Terrell Interview

Brandon, word on the street is you’ve got a new young adult book hitting the shelves and not just any book, but a book in the vein of the much-beloved “Choose Your Own Adventure” styles of my childhood. Please, tell us more!

Whichever ‘street’ is feeding you information, they are correct! My first entry in Lake 7 Creative’s ‘Can You Survive?’ series of ‘Choose Your Path’ adventures is now out. The concept is pure genius. The books take classic literary adventure stories and turn them into novels where the reader is the main character, and they are in charge of directing the story. In my book, Can You Survive? The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, you are the famed outlaw, trying to outwit the Sheriff of Nottingham. It stays true to the themes and prose of Howard Pyle’s original narrative – Pyle was the first to take the ballads of Robin Hood and turn them into a cohesive story for young readers – while injecting a bit more adventure and action. Also, make the wrong choice, and you could end up with an arrow in the throat. So it’s got that going for it, too.

With Robin Hood as the hero of this adventure, you’re sure to hit a wide range of young readers, and hopefully help make them lifelong fans of reading. What books/comics/heroes hooked you at a young age? What books/comics would you give a young person who says, “I don’t like to read. Reading is boring.”

Yeah, it’s kind of a great time for all thing archery, so hopefully this will feed right into that. Robin Hood has always been one of a select group of characters I always wanted to grow up to be (and still do, I suppose). He’s right up there with Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and Peter Parker.

As a kid, I was a big fan of the Hardy Boys and Spider-Man. I distinctly remember reading my first HB book – one of the new (well, new in the 80s) ‘Casefiles’ – that was more ‘pulp action’ mystery than ‘hidden pirate treasure’ mystery. And I remember the MacFarlane run on Spidey – in particular the Wendigo/Wolverine storyline – as being quite important to my appreciation of the webslinger. Tim Burton’s Batman and Richard Donner’s Superman flicks also had quite an impact on me.

Kids nowadays have such a wealth of children’s literature and comic book titles to be inspired by that it’s hard to choose just one. Comics publishers have done a great job of creating an alternate line of superhero books that are all-ages, so if your kid is into Spider-Man or Wolverine or Superman, you can pick up a title without fearing its content. ‘Bone’, ‘The Lunch Lady’ series, even ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ are all easily-accessible books. Personally, I’m super fascinated with a writer/illustrator named Adam Rex and his ‘Cold Cereal’ middle grade trilogy. And a series by an author named Mac Barnett called ‘Brixton Brothers’ about a kid detective who models his methods after a series of vintage detective novels whose characters sound suspiciously like the Hardy Boys. Adam Rex actually does the illustrations for the series, and it’s one of those ideas that you shake a fist at and curse the heavens that you didn’t think of it first.

I’ve also had a chance to write a handful of volumes in a series of books called ‘Tony Hawk’s 900 Revolution’, which is published by Stone Arch Books and centers around a quartet of skateboarding/snowboarding/extreme sports enthusiast teens who get caught up with a mysterious organization trying to track down the pieces of a mystical skateboard used by the Birdman himself. It’s an action-packed fun ride that blends a number of genres, and it was a blast to work on. So if there’s a reluctant reader you know who digs skateboarding and/or James Bond, they should definitely check them out.

Aside from being a novelist, you are also a part of a particularly successful children’s television show involving trains. I hear kids love trains. Tell us more about the CHOO CHOO BOB SHOW! What is it about trains that kids love so much? Also, can I ride the train?

Thanks! Yeah, “The Choo Choo Bob Show” is a locally produced and shot children’s television show in the vein of Casey Jones, Captain Kangaroo, and to an extent, even PeeWee’s Playhouse and The Muppets. Its creator, Bob Medcraft (who owns the Choo Choo Bob Train Store in Saint Paul, and has been in the film and television business for many years) wanted a show about trains that didn’t involve anthropomorphized engines that make you wish for a slow, painful death. The show is now on the air – tune in Saturdays at 9AM on Channel 45 if you’re in the Twin Cities – and it’s going strong.

As for kids and their fascination with trains, well, I think it’s about the allure of something children see every day – massive, lumbering cars stretching for miles – and the ability to create that on their bedroom floor. Even as I answer this question, my 3½ year old is reconfiguring his train layout for the umpteenth time and coupling all of his train cars together. It’s an amazing, creative outlet for kids.

And Dan, you may certainly board the train, but only with a ticket. None of this hobo train hopping, you hear?

Since you are clearly a master of all media, where do you see yourself taking root, books or TV? OR SOME UNHOLY FUSION OF BOTH?!

I’m going to have to say an unholy fusion (which is an awesome name for a band, by the way), because I love them both so much. The collaborative nature of film and television feeds my creativity, while the solitary nature of novel writing is a rewarding challenge.

With the small press publishers in the Twin Cities, as well as the success of the CHOO CHOO BOB SHOW, it seems like Minneapolis/St Paul is doing a nice job of supporting the creative industries. What is the industry insider’s view of our home state?

Minnesota has an amazing creative community. I’ve experienced it in the film world, which is so interconnected and supportive, and I’ve seen it in the vast number of talented comic book and children’s book writers and illustrators we have in Minnesota. We’re very blessed to have such talent to surround ourselves with.

In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own set of questions we ask of every interviewee.

When did you finally say, “Yeah… I’m gonna write stuff for a living. And it will be AWESOME.”

After I read my first Hardy Boys book. My friend and I started writing our own mysteries in spiral notebooks. You know, as a way to impress the ladies.

What was your favorite moment in writing? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”

I’m not sure about any specific time, but really, any time when I break through a difficult section of a book, and my fingers seem to fly across the keyboard. Those moments are pretty special. That, and the times when something in my head cracks open and an idea pokes out and forces me to write it down.

This isn’t exactly a cool writing moment, but being behind the table for my first comic convention was an awesome and surreal experience. It was in Los Angeles, at Wizard World L.A., and illustrator Brent Schoonover and I were there to promote the first issue of our mini-series “Horrorwood”. After all of that hard work (especially in Brent’s case), it was so gratifying to pass off our comic to interested readers. Plus, our wives were with us, and between them landing us in line to meet Kevin Smith by schmoozing with his bodyguard and them accidentally running into Margot Kidder and talking to her without a clue as to who she was, it made for a memorable trip.

What was the moment that made you say, “Writing books is amazing”

When I was watching Point Break for surfing “reference”. Actually, I think it’s the moments when I’ve had a kid come up to me and say how much they liked one of my books. Or speaking with kids at school. There’s a sense of wonder in their eyes while they listen to me drone on about how awesome it is to take the stories wedged in my brain and write them out for the world to see.

Our standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett?

Hmmm… You know, even though he didn’t get along with one of my favorite filmmakers (Hitchcock), I’m going to have to go with Chandler.

Parting thoughts?

Thanks for giving the time and the soapbox! For more info on me, Robin Hood, and any of my other work, check out www.mental-records.blogspot.com. You can also find Robin Hood at www.lake7creative.com. Happy reading!

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